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Aerobic Exercise Training

How to Measure
There are two places that you can use to take your pulse: your radial pulse, which is on the thumb side of your wrist, or your carotid pulse, which is located on your neck on either side of your throat. Use your index and middle finger to check your pulse at either site.

Once you find your pulse, count the first beat you feel as zero, the next as one, then two, and so on, for 10 seconds. Multiplying that figure by six will tell you your heart rate in beats per minute.

If you find that your pulse is ticking along comfortably at 138 beats per minute, say 5 beats or so above your calculated target heart rate, keep going. If, however, you're unable to mutter your name three consecutive times, slow down until you can tell someone what you had for dinner last night. In other words, use common sense. Jonathan recently saw a new gym member running on a treadmill like a business-man sprinting for the last train home. It seemed like only a matter of minutes before he was expelled from the revolving belt like a watermelon seed squeezed from one's fingers. When Jonathan asked this ambitious but misguided chap what he was doing, the wheezing runner explained that he was five beats below his target zone. (Jonathan checked his pulse and found out that in fact he was over his target zone by a wide margin.)

The moral of this story is this: Check your heart rate a few times to get an accurate reading. Second, listen to your body. Target heart rates are good guides, but they're not written in stone. If, you're cruising along comfortably at the top end of your zone, that's fine. If, on the other hand, you're struggling to keep pace at the low end of the zone, it's okay to back off a little.

If you don't want to be bothered with taking your pulse, but want to be sure that you're training in your target zone, heart rate monitors are available. A wireless transmission is sent from a chest strap to a wristwatch receiver, and you get an accurate reading of your heart rate. Some treadmills, bikes, and stair climbers in your gym may also be able to read your heart rate directly from the transmitter. Polar is the best known and most widely used heart rate monitor manufacturer, though others, including Cardiosport, have entered the market. Models range from the simplest version, which tells you nothing but your heart rate, to ones with alarms to tell you when you're out of your training zone, to the real fancy-schmancy ones with a stopwatch, bicycle speedometer, and computer interface.

Runner with a heart rate monitor.

Take a Class
Within the gym, there are numerous ways to exercise aerobically. Before former martial arts standout Billy Blanks made Tae Bo a national exercise rage, the craze was spinning. Before that, there were step classes, and aerobic dance.

Some people look at these theme classes as gimmicky – and we suppose some of them are – but many are great ways to churn and burn in a group setting. The workouts can be quite demanding, but the group dynamic and pulsating music distracts you from the intensity of your effort. Even if you're highly motivated and work out diligently on your own, taking a class is a fun way to diversify your routine. If you're someone who needs to be motivated, these classes may be just what you need.

Following, we will discuss briefly the various forms of aerobic activities available in a majority of gyms.

Spinning Out
Spinning, which is done on an exercise bike, was developed in California by a character named Johnny G. Typically accompanied by loud funky tunes and sparkling and flashing lights, you stand and sit, spin fast and slow to the calls of your instructor. No one moves (at least not forward) but you get an incredible workout. Because each rider adjusts the tension on his/her own bike, spinning can accommodate a diverse group of participants.

In case you think that spinning is just for Jane Fonda types, here's an interesting case study. This past winter, rather than fighting the nasty New York winter, Jonathan and several of his cycling teammates regularly took spin classes with cyclist Kirk Whiteman, a former world champion sprinter whose thighs resemble oak trees. If their early season race results are any indication, those wintertime sweat-fests did the trick.

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Excerpted from he Complete Idiot's Guide to Weight Training © 2003 by Deidre Johnson-Cane and Jonathan Cane. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide website or call 1-800-253-6476.


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